Kristen Powers

That old media-bias question again: What will NPR call someone who performs abortions?

That old media-bias question again: What will NPR call someone who performs abortions?

As your GetReligionistas have explained many times, abortion is an issue that isn’t automatically religion-beat territory. However, most public debates about abortion (and euthanasia) end up involving religious groups and the arguments almost always involve religious language.

Yes, there is a group called Atheists Against Abortion and there are other groups on the religious and cultural left, such as the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians. I was converted to the pro-life position as a young adult through articles at Sojourners, including a famous essay by the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

But in the mainstream press, liberal pro-lifers hardly exist, if they exist at all. You would never know that somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of Democrats (depending on how you word the question) hold positions on abortion that most journalists would call “anti-choice.”

Thus, questions about abortion have long been at the heart of surveys linked to religion and media bias, with journalists, especially in elite urban zip codes, consistently backing America’s current regime of abortion laws to a much stronger degree than the public as a whole. It’s been that way since I started studying the issue in the early 1980s.

If you were looking for a recent Armageddon moment on this topic (other than the current U.S. Supreme Court fiasco), it would have to be the media coverage, or non-coverage, of the criminal activity of Dr. Kermit Gosnell of Philadelphia.

Here at GetReligion, the blogging and chutzpah of M.Z. Hemingway played a key role in forcing debates about that topic out into the open.

In the past week or so, several GetReligion readers have sent me the URL of a commentary at The Daily Beast that ran with this headline: “Leaked NPR Emails: Don’t Call Kermit Gosnell an ‘Abortion Doctor’.”

This piece focuses on one of the key issues raised during the Gosnell trial — what professional title should reporters describe to this member of the abortion industry?

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A weekend of #MuslimBan: Did it help for press to ignore key contents of executive order?

A weekend of #MuslimBan: Did it help for press to ignore key contents of executive order?

What a train wreck. There is really no way to dig into the thousands, maybe millions, of words that the mainstream press poured out over the weekend in coverage of President Donald Trump's rushed, flawed executive order creating a temporary ban on most refugees from lands racked by conflicts with radicalized forms of Islam.

My main question, in this post, does not concern the merits of order or the process that created it. That's clearly part of the train wreck and, as someone who was openly #NeverTrump (and #NeverHillary), I think mainstream reporters should go after that mess that with the same fervor they dedicated to the humanitarian impact of the previous administration's policies in Syria, Iraq, etc. We need to know who decided to rollout such a important executive order in such a slapdash, incompetent fashion -- especially whatever it did or didn't say about people in transit or those with green cards.

Now, I would like to focus on one question in particular related to this journalistic blitz that I think will be of special interest to GetReligion readers.

The hashtag for the day was clearly #MuslimBan, even though the order contained language specifically trying to protect many oppressed Muslims. The media also focused on Trump's statements pledging to protect oppressed Christians (I know it's hard to #IgnoreTrump, even when it's wise to do so), even though the text of the order said something else.

My question: Did journalists make this tragic crisis worse by ignoring or mangling some key contents of this order? Following the action on Twitter, it seemed that there are two stances on that.

The first was from Trump critics on the left, which included almost all elite media. It said: The news coverage of the executive order was fine. We all know what Trump meant, no matter what the order's words said. So there.

The second -- with very few exceptions -- was among conservative Trump critics (click here for essential National Review essay by #NeverTrump stalwart David French). I said: The EO was messed up and flawed, but press didn't help by ignoring the order's content. This, along with Trump sloppiness and ego, helped add to the panic and added to the firestorm that hurt real people.

It certainly did appear that, in many cases, panicky police and immigration officials acted like they were enforcing what press reports said the executive order said, rather than the text of the order (which was rushed out in a crazed, flawed manner). I hope there is follow-up coverage on that issue.

So, when considering these questions, what is the key passage of the #MuslimBan order?

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